Reactive Attitudes Revisited

John Deigh

in Morality and the Emotions

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199577507
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731235 | DOI:
Reactive Attitudes Revisited

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P.F. Strawson’s essay ‘Freedom and Resentment’ has had a major impact on work on moral responsibility in ethics and legal philosophy over the last fifty years. The essay is widely cited, and its innovative use of emotions—the reactive attitudes, as he called them—in dealing with the question of whether it makes sense to hold people responsible for their actions if determinism is true is often appealed to in studies of the topic. Yet Strawson’s account of these emotions and how we can better understand the practice of holding people responsible by attending to their role in interpersonal relations is widely misunderstood. Specifically, it is now common to misread Strawson as having understood these emotions to contain or imply complex normative judgments. This chapter offers an interpretation of Strawson’s essay on which his understanding of these emotions, particularly resentment, does not include its containing or implying such judgments or indeed any propositional thought. On this interpretation, Strawson’s account of moral responsibility is continuous with Hume’s naturalism in moral psychology and ill fits the rationalist moral psychology that guides the common misreading of his views

Keywords: responsibility; agency; dignity; respect; emotions; reactive attitudes; community; Strawson

Chapter.  10856 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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